The Boston Bruins' mission was clear in Game 2 of their first-round Stanley Cup Playoff series against the Washington Capitals.
Be more aggressive offensively.
The B's made Capitals goalie Craig Anderson's job much easier than it should have been in Saturday night's overtime loss in Game 1. Boston also missed 21 (!) shots in the series opener.
Game 2 was a far different story. The Bruins had an 89-63 edge in shot attempts and a 48-39 advantage in shots on net. They peppered Anderson time and time again, and their effort was rewarded in a 4-3 overtime win that evened the series heading back to Boston.
Here are three observations from Game 2.
1) Taylor Hall comes up clutch
The Bruins acquired Taylor Hall at the NHL trade deadline for these kinds of games, and he helped save the Bruins from an 0-2 series hole Monday.
The second-line left winger executed a great zone entry late in the third period, avoided a hit by a Capitals defenseman and threw the puck on net. The Bruins descended on Craig Anderson's net, whacking at the puck several times before Hall skated around the back and batted the loose puck over the goal line. The tally evened the score at three goals apiece with 2:49 remaining in regulation.
Hall led the Bruins with 11 shot attempts and seven shots on net. He also tallied six scoring chances and five high-danger shot attempts. The Capitals have had trouble defending his speed through the neutral zone, too, as Hall drew another penalty in the second period. He drew two penalties in Game 1.
"I think what happens is you have a great start to your Bruins career, and then the other night it didn't really happen for (the Hall line). And you want to make a difference. I love guys like (Hall) who want to make a difference, as long as they're not going out there and being reckless and not playing for the team," Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy said.
"Yeah, he had a turnover that he had to take a penalty on, but he did try to chip and chase and not toe drag the guy. It was unfortunate, but he bounced back. The puck wasn't finding him sometimes in the right spot, because he's a guy with time and space -- that's when he's at his best. He drew a penalty that he would've had a breakaway on. Stuff like that frustrates goal scorers but he stuck with it, made a huge play on the third goal to beat (John) Carlson 1-on-1. Great poise and got to the front of the net, and then hung around there, didn't go for a fly-by.
"Credit to Taylor. He's been really invested since he's been here. I think he just wanted to do really well right away. Obviously, that's a good mindset to have. There's a lot of hockey to play, and I think a lot of his teammates reminded him. Just keep playing. When it's your turn you'll make the right play, and sure enough, he did."
2) Jake DeBrusk providing valuable scoring depth
DeBrusk's scoring has been one of the most encouraging outcomes for the Bruins over the first two games. The 24-year-old winger struggled for long stretches of the regular season and was even made a healthy scratch a few times due to a lack of offensive production. DeBrusk tallied just 14 points (five goals, nine assists) in 41 games.
But he's had some impressive playoff moments in his young career, and this series is the latest example. DeBrusk scored Boston's first goal in Game 1 and he did it again in Game 2 by going hard to the net. This tally came on one of DeBrusk's five shots on net Monday night -- only Taylor Hall and Patrice Bergeron had more.
Bottom-six offense will be crucial to the Bruins' hopes of beating a Capitals team that ranked fifth in goals scored and third in power-play percentage during the regular season.
So far, DeBrusk has helped provide that scoring depth. It's not a huge surprise, either. DeBrusk has typically played well in the first round of the playoffs, scoring five goals in 2018, one in 2019, two in 2020 and now twice in two games this year.
DeBrusk also is playing the game with excellent speed, physicality and is battling hard for 50-50 pucks in the corners and along the boards. He's giving the B's a little bit of everything, and they need all of it.
3) B's did far better job defending Ovechkin
Capitals forward Alexander Ovechkin was everywhere in Game 1. He set a physical tone for his team with a couple huge hits, and also helped drive puck possession and create scoring chances for himself and his linemates.
Ovechkin's impact was minimal in Game 2, and it was a huge factor in the outcome.
The Bruins had a plus-5 shot attempt differential, a plus-3 edge in shots on net and were even in scoring chances (5-5) against the Capitals' top line of Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and Anthony Mantha during 5-on-5 play. Compare those numbers to Game 1 when the Ovechkin line was plus-10 in shot attempts, plus-5 in shots on net and plus-10 in scoring chances.
Connor Clifton played the most 5-on-5 ice time against Ovechkin among Bruins defensemen and he did a tremendous job. He was physical and used his speed to skate out of trouble in his own zone. It was a tough assignment for Clifton, who didn't play in Game 1 but drew into the lineup as a result of Jeremy Lauzon's injury.
"I love Cliffy. He competes so hard everyday in practice," Marchand said. "Every shift in the game, he's so hard to play against. And he's always ready. He's such a true professional. He's always ready regardless of how long he's been sitting.
"When he's in the lineup he brings the same intensity every night. He competes hard, and that's what you love to see. He can skate like the wind and he's so physical. I think he catches guys off guard a little bit, but he's a great player for us and he has been for a couple years now. We're lucky to have him."
With the Bruins getting the benefit of the last line change as the home team in Games 3 and 4, playing the matchups and getting the Bergeron line, plus the McAvoy/Matt Grzelcyk pairing on the ice versus Ovechkin will be a lot easier for B's head coach Bruce Cassidy.